Fentanyl, meth and etizolam detected after Regina overdoses

Early toxicology results show that two people who died by overdose in Regina had lethal levels of fentanyl and meth in their system, according to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service. 

"Be careful what you're buying," said chief coroner Clive Weighill. "I think it's fair that people should be warned that we know this is in the community right now — and that all precautions should be taken."

There's also a new drug in Regina called etizolam, which is reportedly new to Regina.

The sedative isn't approved for sale in North America, but illicit forms of the anti-anxiety medication have been found in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and now Saskatchewan.

Etizolam is part of the benzodiazepine class of drugs — the same category as lorazepam, Valium and Xanax. While naloxone kits can help reverse an opioid overdose, the antidote has no effect on etizolam overdose.

Weighill said this new drug being alongside meth and fentanyl is troubling. 

The two overdose-related deaths remain under investigation by the coroners service and Regina police. However, the toxicology results were expedited because of the rising numbers of overdoses. 

Patrol group calls for supervised injection site

Wade LeCaine and Patty Will want the city to establish a supervised injection site in the wake of the overdoses. 

They're behind the Queen City Patrol group, which drives around the city picking up a seemingly ever-increasing quantity of needles, arm bands, cookers, water bottles (for mixing) and pipes. 

"We need help," Will said. She believes a supervised site would keep the needles off the streets and provide a space to test drugs before consumption. 

Kendall Latimer/CBC

LeCaine noted that medical personnel are on site if someone does indeed overdose. They want to see money directed to supervised injections sites and community groups like theirs working on the ground. 

City police have reported 67 recent non-fatal drug overdoses. Officers attended 40 and used Narcan (a brand name for the anti-opioid medication naloxone) 16 times. Regina EMS responded to at least 62 overdose calls just in the last two weeks and administered naloxone 46 times. Last year, they averaged seven overdose calls per week. 

Will and LeCaine were part of another patrol group when they found more than 400 needles in one home. Will said she couldn't sleep at night knowing what else was out there, which is why they formed Queen City Patrol. 

Will said she was shocked and overwhelmed to find 738 needles in one Regina alley last month.

Most of their work happens in the downtown or north central neighborhood, but they've been all over the city. 

"It's just been absolutely crazy," Will said. "The lowest we ever went home with, I think, was 130 needles." 

Submitted by Wade LeCaine

Since they began in November, they've recovered close to 5,000 needles. 

They want more needle disposal boxes installed in the city. Regina has two, whereas Saskatoon has at least 20. In 2018, the most recent year with available data, the Saskatchewan Health Authority distributed 2.6 million needles in the city.  

Weighill reminded the public of the Good Samaritan Overdose Act, which protects people from being charged with possession if they report an overdose to 911. People who are at risk of an opioid overdose or who might be likely to witness one are eligible for a free take-home naloxone kit and training on how to use it.

The medication only temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose, so people must seek medical attention even after receiving naloxone. 

Kirk Fraser/CBC

People can find a take-home naloxone program near them by visiting www.saskatchewan.ca/opioids or calling HealthLine 811.

With files from Laura Glowacki